Few minutes ago an old friend of mine called to wish me for the upcoming Durga Puja festivals. He said, “It’s Mahasasthi in Kolkata today!” I wished him back, but it occurred to me that it’s Mahasashti everywhere, not only in Kolkata. When I reminded him, he laughed and said, “Yes indeed. But our Sasthi starts on coming Friday!” And he is absolutely right. Our Pujo in New Jersey (I am referring to the Kallol Durga Pujo which we both attend), starts on October 15th, Friday evening and that’s our Mahasasthi. The thought does give me some consolation that Pujo is yet to start and we have few more days to look forward too. But my friends and family in Kolkata have started enjoying their Pujo. They have started posting photos of their favorite idols on Facebook and Orkut, sending Pujo greetings through emails and expressing their joy and merriment. ETV Bangla is taking us through the streets of Kolkata and the online newspapers and magazines giving us day by day commentary of the Pujo happenings. And we cannot deny that this does cause a bit of a tinge in our hearts. Continue reading
The time of the year is here again. The sky is blue with patches of white clouds floating lazily and the weather is cooling down. Durga Puja is here again in New Jersey. The local Bengali associations are gearing up to welcome Ma Durga with the usual pomp and cultural extravaganza, and let me share with you some information about the festivities that has come to my notice.
Like previous years, Durga Puja festival in New Jersey will be heralded in by the live Mahishashura Mardini (Mahalaya) performance at the Ananda Mandir on October 10th at 5.00am in the morning. I have been a regular attendee at this event, and I can promise you that if you can take that bold step of getting up from bed that early and drive down to Ananda Mandir, you’ll have an experience that you will never regret. Continue reading
Finally the 2010 NABC came to an end on Sunday July 11th at the Atlantic City convention center in New Jersey with a “blow out” performance by Abhijeet. Although his mockery of Bengali culture was not well appreciated by many Bengalees who slowly drifted away from the hall (which was not liked by the singer at all), his performance was just what was expected of a Bollywood performer – entertaining but nothing extraordinary. However, people who came to the conference went back with memories – some of which may not be very pleasant but I would think most of them would be happy memories. Memories of the wonderful performances by Sahaj-ma and Utpal Fakir, Kaivalya Kumar and few others, memories of meeting friends, those long adda sessions and the World Cup finals.
But the people who went back with a bad taste in their mouth (no, I am not talking about the food served by Shahnawaz) were the people who came all the way to showcase their talent through dance, drama and music. These people paid group registration for their show, paid individual registration fees for their entire troupe and spend big dollars to bring their show with the hope to share with their Bengali friends who came from around the country. Continue reading
The count down to NABC 2010 has started. In little more than seven months from now, Bengalis from all over USA and abroad will converge upon Atlantic City in New Jersey. Kallol of New Jersey, the host organization of NABC 2010, is working at a hectic pace to make it a great event. Most of the performers have been lined up, registrations pouring in and the committee members are busy working on the final details like scheduling and fund raising. On January 8th, 2010, a kickoff meeting/press-conference will be held in Kolkata in the presence of most of the artists and performers.
Lets take a look at some of the foreign performers who will grace the Atlantic City convention center stage. I’ll not be able to cover all of them in this article and plan to continue in future posts. At the 2010 NABC Kallol will be presenting some performers who are relatively unknown to the Bengali crowd in USA. One such group is Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop who will be performing at the opening ceremony. Sapphire Creations is a premier experimental dance company based in Kolkata and the only one of its kind in Eastern India performing regularly and popularly in festivals and arts events in India and abroad. Their objective is to integrate in its dance an awareness of tradition, a dimension of experimentation, an urge to entertain and a purpose to provoke consciousness to inspire us to reach brighter horizons. Continue reading
Finally the annual Durga Puja celebrations are over. I was mostly present at the Kallol pujo but also paid (no pun intended) short visits at the Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Anandamandir. Kallol, just like the previous year, had a full house and had to turn away several people. In one of my previous blogs I had requested, rather wished, that Kallol provide a daily ticket for people who would like to come in for a day. However, for whatever reasons, Kallol decided on the contrary and the result was that I had to listen to complaints from several disappointed friends and family. Well, rules are rules – that’s what I said.
This year I did something which I never did before. I dropped in on Thursday evening – and it was real fun. There was no pressure of showing the badge, no parking tags, no stress about reserving seats with shawls and jackets and no celebrities on stage to pay attention to. While the volunteers were busy setting up the idol and the kids busy rehearsing on the stage, I had a good time chatting with friends. For once, after a long time, I had the pleasure of pure Pujo adda – completly unadultered fun. I think we should, at least informally, start the festivities from Thursday – just to prolong the enjoyment for few more hours. Continue reading
In New Jersey, Durga Puja is a special time when the festive mood brings with it a flurry of entertainment and cultural programs across the state. This year too the line up looks very promising although the spirits have dampened a bit due to the tough economic times and with the rejection of visas of few of the performers. Still the combination of local talents and professionals from India is bound to enthrall the Puja attendees on the coming weekends.
I’ll try to briefly summarize the lineup this year, although the organizers have in many cases conveniently omitted the details about the local performers from their web sites. I tried to collect as much information I could manage. If any of you have more information, then please feel free to add them to this post as comments. Continue reading
The classical Indian dance form Kathak is now quite well known amongst the dance connoisseurs of America. Americans who have some familiarity with classical music and dance of India, know about Kathak – a dance form that truly blends together the various components of Indian music – melody, rhythm and the beauty of the physical form. It is true that many stalwarts of the Kathak dance form like Pandit Birju Maharaj and others have graced the American stage with their amazing performances, but the primary reason for its popularity and sustenance in this country is due to the tremendous efforts put in by several Kathak dance schools and academies run by the immigrant dancers from India who wanted to spread their passion for this art form amongst the next generation. Once such school is Kalamandir of New Jersey led by its director, Malabika Guha.
The Mason Gross School of Arts at the Rutgers University in New Jersey is opening up a whole new department of Indian Dance and Music. The program is being introduced with a concert of Indian music and dance on Sunday, June 28th from 2 to 3.45 p.m. at Nicolas Center, Cook Douglass Campus, Rutgers University, NJ featuring most of the faculty. The concert will be followed by a summer camp from Monday June 29th through Friday July 3rd with a daily schedule covering 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The program is headed by Samir Chatterjee. The faculty includes:
Archana Joglekar Muley, Kathak
Arun Ramamurthy, Violin
Bani Roy, Odissi
Dibyarka Chatterjee, Percussion
Hidayat Khan, Sitar
Kalyani Ramani, Carnatic vocal
Kedar Naphade, Harmonium
Mitali Banerjee Bhawmik, Hindustani vocal
Samir Chatterjee, Tabla
Sanghamitra Chatterjee, Popular vocal
Steve Gorn, Bansuri
Sudha Devulapalli, Bharatanatyam
Suresh Ramachandram, Mridangam
Samir Chatterjee will teach rhythm and yoga in addition to leading the audio-visual and discussion sessions.